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Ethical and Legal Considerations

Annette Flanagin

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  • Confidentiality promises are widely recognized as
  • an ethical obligation, regardless of the legal duty
  • accompanying them… maintenance of con-
  • fidentiality promises fall within editorial discretion.
  •     Jeffrey A. Richards1

The author-editor relationship is an alliance founded on the ethical rule of confidentiality. Confidentiality occurs when a person discloses information to another with the understanding that the information will not be divulged to others without permission.2 In the context of scientific publication, this rule provides primarily for authors' rights to have the information they submit to a journal, whether in manuscript form or in communications to the editorial office, kept confidential and a concomitant duty of editors and reviewers to maintain their obligations to ensure that any information concerning a submitted manuscript is kept confidential. This compact between author and editor preserves the integrity of the scientific review and publication process. Under this compact, confidentiality may be breached only in rare circumstances, and all such breaches must be handled with care (see additional discussion in 5.7.1, Confidentiality During Editorial Evaluation and Peer Review and After Publication).

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